Foreign Aid III- Good money after bad.
Thanks again to all for the comments and e-mails on this string.
We have arrived at the big question. What, exactly do we get out of the aid that we give to Israel, Egypt, and other nations?
Israel: It is hard to quantify just how much U.S aid goes to Israel, but it is a lot. Estimates
for 2004 total $2.7 billion in federal resources alone (i.e. private aid, remittances, etc are excluded). Between 1949 and 1973 the U.S. provided approximately $3.4 billion in total aid
to Israel. Between1973 and today the total is well over $80 billion. How did this come about?
The relationship between the U.S and Israel has long been based on ideals of democracy, freedom and the right of a Jewish nation to exist. When the U.S. attempted to establish a "strategic consensus" in the region in opposition to the Soviet Union in the early 1980's only the Israelis signed up. The Arab states insisted that their greatest problem was not communism, but Zionism. This morphed into arms sales to Israel, staging bases for the U.S. and eventual elevation of Israel to an equal status with our NATO allies. The first ever free-trade agreement the U.S. entered into was with Israel, and in recent years a large number of joint U.S-Israeli research centers have arisen. Ties between the two nations are stronger than ever.
While Israel continues to be threatened by nearly every country in the region (i.e. they all support the idea of the destruction of Israel), the Israeli economy is now fairly stable, and quite strong. Israel has a per capita income higher than that of Spain, Greece, and even New Zealand. So why are we still pumping money into Israel? Basically, we still need a friend in the region. Israel has been there for us since day one, and we are committed to supporting and defending democracies. It is as simple as that. The bigger question is why are paying off Israel's neighbor?
Egypt: As our number two aid recipient for many years running, one would reasonably expect Egypt to be a close ally, a nascent democracy striving towards the ideals of tolerance, liberty and free markets. In reality Egypt is a dictatorship that fosters virulent anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism. President for life Hosni Mubarak has no interest in growing democracy in Egypt, increasing the level of religious tolerance found there, or increasing the wealth of his people. He has had over 20 years and countless billions of U.S. dollars to prove otherwise. His interest is in being the biggest hitter in the region. A good example is Egypt's relationship with North Korea. As most of the civilized world keeps a close eye on North Korea and arms proliferation, Egypt buys missiles from them, infusing dollars in to the ailing regime.
Anti-Semitism is so pronounced in Egypt that even The Guardian picked up on it last year as "The Elders of Zion" resurfaced to prove Jewish designs on world dominance. Pop-culture in Egypt abounds with hatred for both the U.S and Israel; a recent Cairo dance hit was titled "I Hate Israel". School children are taught that that all of the ills of modern Egypt are the fault of the west. Text books used in Egyptian schools preach jihad (although Mubarak opposed the use of force in the pursuit of bin Laden):
“Encouraging the faithful to perform jihad in the path of Allah, to behead the infidels, take them prisoner, break their power, and make their souls ’s humble (…) You see that in His [Muhammad’s] words: “When you meet the unbelievers in the battlefield strike off their heads and, when you have laid them low, bind your captives firmly. Then grant them their freedom or take a ransom from them, until war shall lay down its burdens.”
As it stands today there is almost no way for the U.S. taxpayer to quantify what our aid dollars go to. Evidence that anti-Americanism is promulgated by many of the leaders of nations we aid is abundant. According to polls 39 percent of South Koreans view the United States as the nation that is most threatening the security of the country, vs. 33% for North Korea. How many thousands of U.S troops have manned the border between the Koreas in the past five decades?
What can we do about this situation? First and foremost, cut off the $2 billion in aid we send to Egypt each year, and set some tough guidelines for future aid programs as a lesson to the rest of the countries we give aid to. No more massive transfers between governments for open ended, vague projects. Future aid should be grant based, with quantifiable objectives, such as "X" number of vaccinations or "Y" level of population provided clean water. No proof of progress, no more aid. These restrictions should be applied to all foreign aid, regardless of status as ally or any other "perks" (i.e. over flights) we gain from countries receiving aid.